“Swift was a great humanist in spite of his being a misanthropist” substantiate.
Or, Swift is both a humanist and a misanthrope. Discuss.
Introduction: Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) is the most famous satirist in the history of English literature. The method of his stark criticism of human idiocy is not usually found in any of his contemporaries, past or present writers in the world of literature. But he has a soft corner for every individual behind his harsh criticism.
Love for the individual and hatred for the combined: He has asserted that he detests all nations, occupations, and communities but he has a bunch of love for the individual. He interprets his thoughts in such a way that he can hate people in the community like lawyers, doctors, etc., but he must have a special love for a particular lawyer or doctor. He asserts that he hates the arrogant principles of man but of course, he has a deep love for the individual.
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Attacking the ruler not the ruled: In Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift satirizes the then-contemporary rulers like Queen Anne, Robert Walpole, King James I, and many others because of their vices. In book I, we see that a civil war was going on and gradually it spread among the Lilliputians as a bloody war. A religious battle between the Catholics and Protestants was also going on. Swift shows his dislike for these both political and religious conflicts. In this book, we also notice a comic episode named ‘Rope-dancing’. The rope dancers are the candidates for great employment of high favor at court. Here, the rope dancers represent Sir Robert Walpole’s skill at parliament. And the ways of appointing the employees represent the nepotism of The Royal family. Swift also criticizes the ways of governing England by some learned but foolish parliamentarian by the speech of the Brobdingnagian king that the government did not need any discussion or contention rather it needs commonsense, reason, and fairness.
Satirizing the imperialistic thought: In the third voyage, the king of Laputa is an oppressor. He rules his kingdom from a moving island and never meets his subjects. So, he knows nothing about their suffering. Sometimes he wants to destroy his subjects by throwing stones, moving the rocks, and blocking the sun and rain. But does not do that as his ministers have properties in that land. How much imperialistic a ruler can be!
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Attacking the absurd activities: In the last voyage, Swift mocks the so-called intellectual society that keeps them busy doing useless things. In this voyage, the man with whom Gulliver meets first is engaged for eight years in a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers.
“He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put into viral hermetically sealed and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers.”
Throughout his life, Swift was accused of being a misanthropist. Because critics have blamed Swift for Gulliver’s mistakes. But Swift asserts that he writes Gulliver’s Travels “to vex the world rather than divert it” in his letter to Alexander Pope.
Conclusion: Shakespeare’s character “King Lear” began to hate all people. However, he learns a lot from experience, and when his daughter serves him a lot, he changes his attitude. For this, we cannot accuse Shakespeare of being a misanthropist, but we can consider Swift a great humanist despite his ill repute in the last voyage for Gulliver’s mistakes.